Friday, February 11, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #3: Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (DS)

Game: Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
Genre: RPG
System: Nintendo DS
Developer: Matrix Software
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: 2010

Are you one of those curmudgeons who constantly pines for the "good ol' days" of the Final Fantasy franchise? (Which would be back when Final Fantasy IV, V and VI were released, by the way.) If so, this is the game for you. In many ways, it recalls Final Fantasy V--although this game's characters aren't as developed and its class/job system isn't as deep. The 4 Heroes of Light is quite a bit more difficult than that title, though--for instance, the appropriately named Chaos may be the most difficult last boss I've ever encountered in a Final Fantasy game--which counts for a lot in my opinion. Also, it includes four, 100-floor bonus towers that open up near the finale and greatly extend the life--and enjoyment--of this charming throwback of an RPG.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

What in the hell does 'Engacho!' mean, anyway?

I posed that question on Twitter recently, and received just one response. Apparently, "engacho" means "hitches" or "pegs" in Spanish. That doesn't make much sense given the game's content and (what little I know of its) story, so I'm guessing something was lost in translation when the folks at publisher NAC Geographic Products Inc. chose Engacho! as a title.

Another possibility: They weren't thinking of Spanish when they decided to call their game Engacho! or they simply made up the word.

Regarding the former, the always reliable (ha!) Google suggested this word--えんがちょ--when I asked it to translate "engacho" from Japanese to English. It certainly sounds like the Google lady is saying "engacho," doesn't it? (Click on the link above and then "listen.") Also, Google's translation of えんがちょ is "for example I is wicked," which, while hilariously stilted, fits the game's theme fairly well.

Why am I running off at the mouth in regards to this rather disgusting--but still loads of fun--little puzzler? Well, I bought it recently, that's why. I can only play it on my computer (using an emulator) at the moment, as I don't yet own a Japanese PS1 or PS2, so I can't tell you too much about it--I hate playing games on my computer--but I can share a few photos of it.

For starters, here's the game's colorfully gross cover:

And here's the actual game disc, which I consider to be both cute and creative (the face is of the game's protagonist):

Oh, and remove the disc from its transparent tray and this is what you see:

(In case you're wondering: Yes, I'm completely incapable of taking a straight-on photo of a game.)

I'll share scans of the game's front and back covers when I review Engacho! as part of "The Great Gaymathon." In the meantime, check out this post for (a bit) more information.

8-bit Fiction is back

And funnier than ever, it seems. Need proof? Check out yesterday's addition:

This one gave me a good chuckle, too.

Anyway, this hilarious tumblog seems to be getting regular updates again, so go ahead and bookmark it if you like incongruous, game-related humor.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

'No matter what happens to you ...'

While we're on the topic of Final Fantasy's white mage, this androgynous character is the subject of a cute Valentine's Day card that's being sold by etsy seller kiracards.

The front of the card features the white mage's "perished" sprite and the following words: "No matter what happens to you..."

Flip it open and here's what you find:

My favorite aspect of this particular card is that it's appropriate for anyone. If you're a gay man and you want to give it to your same-sex sweetie, for instance, you imagine that the white mage is a guy. If you're a lesbian, on the other hand, you imagine that both the black and white mages are ladies. And if you're straight? Why, you imagine the white mage is a guy and the black mage is a gal (or the opposite, if you want), of course.

Who's to stop you?


So, is the white mage in the first Final Fantasy a he or a she?

How's this for a pointless question: Is the white mage in the original Final Fantasy a he or a she?

I've always assumed the white mage is a she, mainly because I consider the character's pre-class change sprite (below left) to be on the feminine side. I recently came across a few comments on line, though, that suggested the white mage must be a he due to the more masculine appearance of the white wizard sprite (below right).

Those broad shoulders don't necessarily mean the white wizard/mage is a he, though, do they? I mean, we're talking about one member of a four-person party that's been tasked with saving the world--you'd think such a person, whether male or female, would have to buff up a bit beforehand, wouldn't you?

As such, I'm sticking with my initial opinion that the white mage in Final Fantasy is a she. That's just my opinion, though; what's yours?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #2: Rainbow Islands (PC Engine CD-ROM2)

Game: Rainbow Islands
Genre: Platformer
System: PC Engine CD-ROM2
Developer: NEC Avenue
Publisher: NEC Avenue
Release date: 1993

Most platformers follow in Super Mario Bros' hugely successful footsteps and scroll horizontally. Well, Fukio Mitsuji's arcade classic--technically the first sequel to Bubble Bobble--turns that tried-and-true tradition on its head and scrolls vertically, much like those odd overworld sections of Kid Icarus that caused you to pull out your hair by the handful. (Or was that just me?) As much as I like that mythological Famicom Disk System title, though, it has nothing on Rainbow Islands, what with the latter's titular arcs of light--which can be used as weapons or as platforms--shimmering, Wizard of Oz-esque soundtrack (i.e., the main theme sounds an awful lot like "Over the Rainbow") and almost shocking array of enemies and environments. That's not to say this Bubble Bobble follow-up is faultless. Some players are bound to hate its floaty jumps, or struggle to perfect its run-up-a-slew-of-rainbows-like-a-flight-of-stairs mechanic. Making matters worse, Rainbow Islands' can be merciless from a difficulty perspective. And the boss battles that pop up at the end of each world, while visually impressive, often feel "cheap" rather than satisfying due to the suffocating size of said baddies. Still, Rainbow Islands deserves all the kudos that can be tossed at it due to its surprising amount of depth and to how boldly, radically and successfully its gameplay veers from that of its predecessor.

See also: previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts

Pixelated (or polygonal) apocalypses?

Here's something you probably couldn't have guessed about me: I'm a big fan of apocalypse novels. I just finished reading one, in fact: Susan Beth Pfeffer's This World We Live In.

The completion of that novel got me to thinking: Why haven't I played any post-apocalyptic games? The answer, sadly enough, is that I've never thought of it.

Even if I had, though, I wouldn't know where to start. After all, the only post-apocalyptic game I'm aware of is Namco's Fragile (aka Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, below), a Wii game I have every intention of picking up at some point.

Other than that game, though, I'm stumped.

Have any of you played any worthwhile post-apocalyptic games--especially RPGs--over the years? If so, which ones?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Professor PC Engine

I've decided to post all of the PC Engine reviews that I write as part of "The Great Gaymathon" on this blog as well as my PC Engine blog,

The reviews on the latter blog are going to be called "PCE Reviews," by the way--with the "PCE" part standing for "Punchy, Concise and Entertaining."

In order to communicate that fact to the readers of said blog, I created the following drawing:

Interestingly enough, tomorrow's Great Gaymathon review will focus on one of my favorite PC Engine games. Can you guess which one?

The Great Gaymathon Review #1: Donkey Kong (Famicom)

Game: Donkey Kong
Genre: Platformer
System: Famicom
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 1983

Ask a random stranger--yes, even that old lady with the bird in her hair--what she thinks about the Famicom version of this classic quarter-muncher, and she's sure to tell you, eyes mid-roll and nose upturned, "Well, it certainly isn't as good as the arcade original." That it isn't. After all, it's missing an entire stage--the cement factory, as it's called by Donkey Kong fanatics--for starters. It's also missing the "How high can you get?" screen and a few between-stage animations. Other than that, though, this 8-bit adaptation is amazingly spot-on, especially considering its age. That's not the only reason to pick up a (complete-in-box) copy of this early Famicom release, though. Another: It sports a pretty cool piece of cover art (as you can see in the scan above and in this photo).

Monday, February 07, 2011

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about 'The Great Gaymathon'

Remember how I promised in this post to play, over the course of the next year or so, all of my games--not necessarily to completion, mind you--and then write about them under the guise of "The Great Gaymeathon"?

Well, after a few months of hemming and hawing I'm finally giving it a go--although I've since changed the name of this little project to "The Great Gaymathon." (The "e" in the previous version just didn't sit well with me.)

I've already written a handful of these posts and I'll be publishing them in a staggered fashion over the next few weeks. Don't expect feature-length reviews that end in multi-star recommendations, though; rather, think of them as short, but hopefully sweet, repositories of information.

Each one will use the same format, by the way: They'll start with a bit of basic information--title, genre, developer, publisher, system and release date--about the game in question and then continue on to a snappy review (likely no more than about 10 or so sentences) and scans of its front and back cover art.

Look for the first Great Gaymathon review--which focuses, appropriately enough, on one of Nintendo's maiden Famicom releases, Donkey Kong--tomorrow.

See also: 'The Great Gaymeathon'

An artful look at Bonk's arcade cousin, BC Kid

Like any good Bonk--or, PC Genjin, as he's called in Japan--fan, I consider the character's PC Engine outings to be (basically) the only ones worth my attention. As a result, I've ignored pretty much all of the spin-offs that have been released for the GameBoy, the Famicom and the Super Famicom--I'm just going to ignore the later atrocities--over the years.

I haven't ignored all of the Bonk spin-offs, though; the arcade-only BC Kid, for instance, has always intrigued me despite the fact that it was developed by Kaneko rather than Red and Atlus.

Artist and blogger Curtis Bathurst seems to share my interest in BC Kid, at least as far as the game's aesthetics are concerned. In a recent post, Bathurst critiques the game's promotional art (right) as well as its in-game graphics.

Although he isn't a big fan of either, he ends his post on a positive note saying, "I find it wildly exciting that there was ever a coin-op Bonk’s Adventure and I love rummaging through the ‘net in search of bits and scraps about the game."

If you're at all interested in graphic design--especially as it relates to the world of gaming--I highly recommend heading over to Bathurst's site and reading his post about this quirky quarter-muncher.